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February 7, 2005
The Non-Existent Cuts At The VA

The New York Times tries its best to hype up a controversy over veterans' benefits in the new budget submitted by the Bush administration, but the Gray Lady reveals herself as the painted lady for the Left instead. Robert Pear and Carl Hulse offer up this slanted look at the new budget under the headline "Bush Budget Raises Prescription Prices for Many Veterans." The qualifier "many" should raise eyebrows, although the reader has to scroll down to the tenth paragraph to discover what it means.

Before that, the report uses selected quotes to imply that Bush has taken an axe to veterans' benefits:

President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday.

The proposals, they said, are in the $2.5 trillion budget that Mr. Bush plans to unveil on Monday. White House officials said the budget advanced his goal of cutting the deficit, which hit a record last year.

"We are being tight," Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here."

The proposals to increase charges to veterans face stiff opposition from veterans organizations, Democratic members of Congress and some Republicans.

It's an outrage! Bush hates veterans! Or so the Times would have you think. Unless you take the time to read past the first four paragraphs in the article, they'd be successful. However, as the truth finally gets out, the new rules apply as a means test, and the VA budget actually gets more money this year, not less:

The president would increase the co-payment for a month's supply of a prescription drug to $15, from the current $7. The administration says the co-payment and the $250 "user fee" would apply mainly to veterans in lower-priority categories, who have higher incomes and do not have service-related disabilities.

Veterans with service disabilities or in lower-income brackets would not have to pay the user fee, nor the raised co-pay for precriptions, although even $15 is a pretty good price. I can only get generics at that rate, and I have a good medical plan. The overall budget for the VA will come in at over $70 billion, as opposed to the $48 billion funded in the final Clinton budget -- an increase of almost 50% over five years of spending.

One of the messages that Bush gave at the State of the Union speech last week was that of stewardship over the people's money. He told Congress that we had to ensure that we spent the money intelligently and sparingly, as it didn't belong to the government but to the people. I don't think that asking veterans who can afford the fee and who have no service-related illness or injuries to pay into the system is outrageous, although it is certainly debatable. But for the New York Times to imply that the annual increases given to the VA amount to "cuts" simply because the Bush administration intends on spending more money with more oversight not only is dishonest, but positively Orwellian.

Can the Times answer this -- how does a $10 billion dollar increase from 2004, itself a 15% increase, qualify as a cut?

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin notes a number of lefties who have difficulty reading more than the first three paragraphs of news articles, or fact-checking to determine what the true budget commitments have been. Unsurprisingly, the leading Democratic lights Kos and Atrios either can't read, can't count, or refuse to do either.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 7, 2005 6:03 AM

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» The Bush Budget and Veterans Benefits from Running Scared
A story from today's nyt details some cuts to veterans benefits which have pundits on both sides screaming. The truth, as usual, seems to be somewhere in between. [Read More]

Tracked on February 7, 2005 8:56 AM

» Rip & Read Blogger Podcast for February 7, 2005 from Rip & Read Blogger Podcast
Here's what I ripped and read in today's podcast: Yes, Kos, it is clearly the result of lower co-pays under Clinton that helped the Democrats to be seen as the party of National Security and Military Might through the 90's. Please. Now, Captain... [Read More]

Tracked on February 7, 2005 1:54 PM

» Daily Dish from The Cool Blue Blog
OK, now it's time to put up or shut up. The Democrats have hammered Bush on spending for years. Now he has submitted a budget that keeps discretionary spending flat. Bob Bixby of the Concord Coalition said [Read More]

Tracked on February 8, 2005 6:16 AM

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